A veritable Who’s Who of successful outdoor companies have set roots and prospered in Steamboat Springs.
Leading the pack are such outdoor giants as merino apparel maker Smartwool, tent and sleeping bag manufacturer Big Agnes, energy food company Honey Stinger and Boa Technology, a ratcheting system that recently sold for $454 million.
Here’s a look at the companies that call Steamboat home and how they’ve grown into national brands:
Founded in 2000, Big Agnes is an award-winning tent, sleeping bag and sleeping pad manufacturer headquartered downtown. It’s won awards for everything from its MtnGlo tent line (yes, they come with built-in LED lights) to its sleeping pad systems, which slide into the company’s sleeping bags. Employing nearly 50 people locally, the company is in more than 10 international markets throughout Asia and Europe. “You couldn’t ask for a better place to test our gear,” co-founder Bill Gamber said.
Merino wool sleepwear company Chill Angel was founded by former Smartwool and Point6 executive Betsy Seabert in 2016, who has used her years of wool experience to create an innovative line of “temperature balancing” sleepwear made from 100% merino wool for a new concept in sleep solutions.
Cogma Bikewear is fueled by passion for pedaling. Founders and competitive cyclists Karen Tremaine and Clint Ball began as bike apparel makers in 2011, producing comfortable and “slightly rebellious designs.” “We actually live the mountain town lifestyle,” Ball said. “Our product ideas come from our daily experiences and friends. We get to play and work outside in our backyard every day.”
Founded in 1982, Creek Company is a market leader in the high-end personal flotation craft category for anglers, manufacturing pontoon boats, float tubes, tackle bags, fly-fishing accessories, and more. “Having our business here is great inspiration for all we do,” said owner Chris Timmerman. “We can test our product in a matter of minutes.”
Design. Adventure. Better. That’s the premise behind stand-up paddleboard company Hala Gear, founded in 2010. The company offers a full line of inflatable SUPs and accessories, testing its wares daily on the Yampa River. Its collection is led by such designs as the Hala Atcha, Radito and Playa, as well as its patented Carbon Construction technology. “They’re stable enough for everyone,” said founder Peter Hall, who also recently purchased online retailer Colorado Kayak Supply. “And we can test them all right outside our office.”
Founded by local bluegrass musician Eric Baker, Harvest is a grassroots ski company producing handcrafted skis using premium materials in a sustainable manner. “In the tradition of small-batch brewing, farm-to-table cuisine and supporting small business, it’s about growing the culture of skiing from tree to ski,” Baker said.
Hog Island Boatworks
Hog Island Boat Works introduced the world’s first rotomolded drift boat to the fishing market in 2007. The company now produces a full line of rotomolded drift boats and skiffs, available with trailer, anchor and other accessories. “We make performance, rotomolded boats that can go anywhere,” founder Johnny St. John said. “And it’s great to do it in Steamboat; we can wet a line during lunch break.”
Founded in 2002, energy food company Honey Stinger has grown to more than 50 local employees. While the company’s original line of honey-based energy gels arose as a natural, long-lasting energy source for endurance athletes, it now also produces bars, chews, waffles and gels. The company’s best seller, the Stinger Waffle, improves upon the popular stroopwafel racers use to fuel themselves in Europe. “It’s another great company to be based in Steamboat,” co-founder Bill Gamber said.
Kent Eriksen Cycles/Bingham Built Bikes
Kent Eriksen founded Moots in 1981 and was elected into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame in 1996. He later founded Kent Eriksen Cycles downtown, specializing in custom titanium bikes, which is now owned by Brad Bingham, who also runs Bingham Built Bikes. “Steamboat is a special place to live, and its wealth of biking options make it even better,” Bingham said.
Selected as a Colorado Company to Watch by the State Office of Economic Development, Moots was founded in 1981 and hand-builds titanium road, mountain and cross bikes, with a staff that lives and breathes cycling.”We’re surrounded by great riding, which inspires us personally and professionally,” said marketing manager Jon Cariveau. “We’re proud of our bikes, our team and the town we call home.”
Founded by Peter and Patty Duke, who started merino giant Smartwool in 1994, Point6 has also put Steamboat on the world’s sock map. Serving more than 800 retailers and 20 distributors in 15 countries, the company uses merino wool fibers combined with state-of-the-art spinning and knitting techniques to create socks and apparel built for comfort and performance. “We get to test everything right outside, whether it’s on ski slopes or trails,” said Peter Duke.
Based out of the old Steamboat Springs Airport building before moving to Denver this year, Smartwool is one of Steamboat’s biggest outdoor brand success stories. Its product line has expanded from socks to a complete apparel line, all made from New Zealand merino wool. Owned by VF Corp, the company has received multiple Editor’s Choice magazine awards and continues to lead the merino wool sock and apparel market. Its 400 sock and apparel products — which use enough yarn each year to circle the earth 500 times — are distributed through more than 6,000 retailers in 35 countries.
Founded in 2002, Spiffy Dog is home to the World’s Most Comfortable Dog Collar. After designing climbing gear out of lightweight, quick-drying aerospace material, its founders applied it to pet products, resulting in top-selling dog collar and other pet accessories. “It’s a dog-friendly town and a great location to test our products,” said brand manager Kyle Nelson, whose Air Collar line includes 25 styles and matching leads.
Founded by former UnderArmour executive Ryan Wood, Sweetwood Smokehouse’s mission is to promote American agriculture and the Western way of life. A family-owned company, it offers a full array of naturally raised beef products, including award-winning Sweetwood Beef Jerky and its Sweetwood Fatty, a delicious hickory smoked meat stick. You can find its products all over the country in specialty groceries and stores like REI and Academy Sports.
Talon Grips targets law enforcement officers and other gun users desiring enhanced grip for their firearms. The company has grown from a basement operation in 2012 to 75 U.S. retailers and three international distributors. Offering 126 different gun model grips in two textures, business is, well, booming. “Steamboat’s a great place to be based,” said president Mike Morris, whose company produces iPhone grips as well. “The mountain lifestyle and community are hard to beat.”